I think that culturally, through movies, advertisements, and the like, we have been taught that love is about receiving things. Like Valentine’s Day. It’s about getting what you desire. For girls, it proceeds from getting the bouquet of flowers, to getting the diamond ring. For men, it proceeds from getting the poonanny, to getting the trophy. As if all you really had to do was go out there and succeed. Conquer, divide, and rule. Get a nice house, acquire some kids, and there you are. All tied into the American Dream.
As if you just put yourself out there, and worked hard enough, and were good looking enough, then all your dreams would be fulfilled. Some perfect person would walk through the door and everything would suddenly fall into place.
But love isn’t about comfort, ease, and mere fulfillment of desire. It’s about giving. Unconditionally. How many people, besides truly loving parents, really know about unconditional love? We have been taught that the world should center about us (and all the things that will make us feel bigger, better, and more complete). But when you truly love someone, the world centers about them. No matter if they are perfect or not. No matter if they fulfill some adolescent fantasy or not. Simply because they are them.
The things that make us beautiful are the most natural aspects of ourselves, that we would consciously hide if we knew that it was showing. The flaws, the silliness, the shy craziness waiting to be unleashed by adoration. The beauty that we see in the marketplace, the airbrushed glossy masks, are manufactured to fit into some collective fantasy of perfection. But they are not beautiful. They are desirable, simply because they are unattainable. Yes, unattainable. Just like advertisements for products try to sell you some simulation of happiness, contentment, and eternal well-being, if you just had that one thing. But the very idea that you could find nirvana through a product shows just how unattainable such a state of happiness really is. Did it ever occur to you that perhaps it is not in your nature to always be happy? To be perfect? To be desired by everyone?
This reminds me when I was in college, when ‘E’ was making its journey from hippy new age raver desert parties to mainstream clubs and consumer groups. I knew people who were taking E every weekend, and taking more and more of it, attempting to prolong their sense of belonging and connection to other people, the feeling in music, the beauty of dance and touch and scent. These people became ‘E-tards’, and you could visibly see the effects of taking way too much of the drug in their faces, the draining of nuance and groundedness, the flattening and glossy extension into disassociated fantasy. They totally missed the whole point of the experience, just as most people miss the whole point of all ecstatic experiences. It’s not about always being high, happy, and united with all the world. That in fact to prolong such experiences is to flatten out reality, at the expense of yours—and other’s—feelings.
We have to feel everything. We have to feel not only happiness and beauty but also pain and loneliness. And when you truly love someone, you lift up the barriers that separate you from them by accepting everything that they make you feel. You open yourself not only to their kisses and hugs, but their insecurities and pettiness. This is all part of the deal. You can’t have one without the other. Well, you could, but then it wouldn’t be love. It would be a conditional relationship based on your desires.
Some people are happier to flit from one person to the next like a hummingbird, sucking nectar from each one and then moving on before they run into emptiness. It takes a lot of work to hide what you feel from other people. It takes even more work to constantly hide what you feel from yourself.
Try loving someone for more than what you want from them. Just for them. Not only for the beauty in their eyes that first drew you in like flames in the night, but for the complexity and human nature and stark, bare, raw beauty in their hearts. Root yourself down into them deep. Because down here, in this other person, in the darkness of the unknown, in the ripping wind of the void and formless ancient beginnings, you may just find yourself. Complete. Beyond desire. Beyond suffering. Drenched in love. Immersed in love. Drowned in love.